Walking through Book Stores Today

Tam explains the difference between fantasy and urban fantasy:

Nowadays, if someone tells you that a book is “fantasy”, it is best to ask if it is “urban fantasy”, because the latter, despite the similar-sounding genre name, is not at all the same thing. Sure, it may contain an elf, but if it does, she’s a bisexual wiccan detective elf who owns an occult bookstore in Miami and only increases her psychic powers through knockin’ the boots. People who would rightly be ill at the thought of necrophilia suddenly find it a turn-on if the corpse is still walking around, has fangs, and looks like Robert Pattinson.

As someone who reads some magazines about books, I knew this difference.

But wandering through the bookstore last week, looking to spend a gift card, I found end caps and end caps filled with steam punk historical science fiction. You know, science fiction kind of books set in the Victorian era using a lot of steam and pipes instead of atomic packs and nanobots.

It’s like a less imaginative retread of Jules Verne, without the future speculative nature of the Verne (instead, the stories speculate an unknown future from some safe past era that we know it turns out all right for that generation–aside from masses of their children dying in The Great War, of course–instead of the unknown future ahead of us, whose speculation would be hard).

But they no doubt feature what Ms. K would call “some arch humor and modern sensibilities” that Verne, Lovecraft, Wells, and Burroughs lacked.

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